Player versus environment (most commonly referred to in MMO’s as PvE) is the most common type of activity in Elite Dangerous. PvE combat is the easiest form of combat that anyone can start in, and can easily turn into one of the hardest to master effectively and efficiently in.
Here you can see suggestions for PvE ship builds: PvE Ship List
Anyone is able to start doing combat competently in a Viper Mk 3 or a smaller ship. How you pilot the ship and how you deal damage effectively will help guarantee longevity in your survivability. There are some essential basics you’ll need to master as these fundamental skills are transferable to medium and large ships. If you start in a large ship, it is almost guaranteed you’ll make bad habits. Things like face tanking, unmanaging pips and staying still will make your ship underperform its potential.
Redirecting PIPs to SYS
boosts shield strength by a factor of 2.5x with 4 pips, 1.75x with 2 pips
as long as there is energy in the SYS capacitor, the shield generator will be able to recharge
Redirecting PIPs to ENG
helps optimize the ability to turn at a higher speed and gives your ship more maneuverability
helps reduce boost recharging rates
Redirecting PIPs to WEP
helps reduce thermal loading of all weapons
reduces energy required on energy heavy weapons like lasers, plasma accelerators and rail guns
Subtargetting a ship's modules is a good tactic to utilize to disable certain functionalities a ship has available. You are able to sub target any non-bulkhead modules. In different situations, different modules need to be disabled based on the criteria of the kill orders.
destroying a ship the fastest way
target the Power Plant and overwhelm this module
disabling the ability to escape
target the Frame Shift Drive to disable the ability to wake out
Grom Bombs or Baby Grom Missiles can disable the FSD temporarily
target the Thrusters to disable the ability to maneuver with its flight thrusters
Frag Cannons with Drag Munitions can slow down the engines optimal thrust levels
disabling the ability to recharge
target the Shield Generator to disable regeneration
Reverb Mines or Torpedoes can disable this module without subtargetting
Flight Assist Off
Flight Assist is a program that corrects to match your movement vector to your rotation, and to automatically stabilize rotation. Disabling it decouples the ship’s movement vector and rotation completely, which means you’ll have to counteract all movements and rotational inputs manually. In space, momentum is conserved, which means the more inputs to put into your ship, the more inputs you need to counteract to neutralize your ship’s movement and spin.
With flight assist off, you are able to accomplish more accurate control of strafing movement, making fixed weapons with high time-on-target projectile weapons more viable. The ship does not counteract normal or rotational speeds even if it would exceed the maximum speed capped by the pips. For most engagements, the weakest point for any ship is at the back of the ship. Flight assist off allows you to react and adjust quickly to position yourself behind the ship, and maintaining that position very easily throughout the fight.
For handlers using FA-off on Mouse and Keyboard, setting Mouse Reticle to Relative Mouse will return the mouse position to the center of the screen, making it more easier to handle and aim your ship.
In PvE combat, there are multiple weapons and defense modules to fit your ship. These modifications are the most expensive in terms of costs and maintenance, however it does allow you to survive for much longer.
Weapons come in a variety of damage types, each designed to its specifications and can dispatch elements of a ship’s defensive modules effectively. There are four different types of damage, thermal, kinetic, explosive, and absolute damage.
Thermal Based Weapons
The pulse, burst, and beam lasers are all 100% thermal based, meaning they are effective at removing shields of another ship. Unlike beam lasers, the pulse and burst lasers have relatively low damage per unit of distributor energy consumed making it a more preferable choice without engineering. When engineering, efficient beam weapons become a superior choice.
Kinetic Based Weapons
The frag cannon, multi-cannon, and cannon are all 100% kinetic based, meaning they are effective at removing the hull of another ship. Each weapon has its own benefits and weaknesses; the multi-cannon requires time-on-target to be effective, frag cannons offer a larger damage pool only effective at short ranges, cannons offer good damage but have an extremely slow projectile speed.
Explosive Based Weapons
Missiles, Torpedoes and Mines are explosive weapons however each can be countered very easily making them niche weapons for PvE combat. Explosive weapons have a large damage pool, but require a lot of thermal load from the power distributor making it a hot module. In addition, they draw a lot of power, they have a very slow projectile speed rendering them useless for general purpose.
Hybrid Based Weapons
Hybrid based weapons are those that are a very special type of weapon that splits its damage between two or more damage types. Theoretically explosives can be considered as a hybrid weapon as they are partially thermal and mostly explosive, but because their practicality is very limited, it will not be considered as such. Plasma Accelerators and Rail Guns are the main hybrid weapons. Plasma Accelerators deal 60% absolute, 20% thermal, 20% kinetic damage. Rail Guns deal 67% thermal and 33% kinetic damage.
Kill Warrant Scanners
The purpose of a kill warrant scanner is to scan all ship's bounties tied to other factions, regardless of their criminal title (clean, wanted, hostile). If the utility is used properly, it can negatively impact the outcome of the controlling faction's influence in a system. Utilization of this module is looked down on for BGS influence pushes.
Like it's offensive counterparts, customization made to the ship is not limited by weapons only Defensive modules like shield generator, defensive mechanisms and boosters, or hull and module reinforcement packages can be placed in your ship to better absorb damage from the enemy.
Shield generators is a module that activates a bubble that protects the ship from external damage. The amount of shield health gets drained from the system power capacitor and shield strength can be buffed depending on the number of PIPs assigned to the system's PIPs. There are three types of shield generator. A bi-weave shield generator has lower shield strength but has a quick regeneration rate. A normal shield generator has decent shield strength and decent regeneration rate. Prismatic shield generators offer the best shield protection at the cost of slow regeneration rate.
Shield Cell Banks
Shield cell banks are modules that have the ability to regenerate damaged shield cells by spooling a pool of shield reserve into the main shield generator at the cost of making the ship extremely hot.
Hull Reinforcement Packages
Hull Reinforcement Packages (HRP) are modules that strengthen the overall hull strength of the ship. HRP’s hull strengths are stackable and do not diminish by the number of HRPs stored in one ship.
Module Reinforcement Packages
Module Reinforcement Packages (MRP) are modules that redirect damage from modules to a protection reserve. The number of MRPs stored in one ship has a diminishing return. The module protection percentage diminishes multiplicatively for every new module reinforcement introduced however the protection amount stacks.
Upgrading the bulkheads of a ship can help with increasing a ship’s hull strength. Every ship will default to a lightweight alloy bulkhead module. The secondary layer of protection is the Reinforced Alloy, which is a budget version of the Military Grade Composite (MGC) armour. Along with the Military Grade Composite, there are two other armour versions; the Mirrored Surface Composite (MSC) and Reactive Surface Composite (RSC) armours. MSC offers more thermal protection at the cost of kinetic and explosive resistance, while RSC offers more kinetic and explosive protection at the cost of thermal resistance.
Shield Boosters are a utility module that enhances the overall strength of the shields. You can think shield boosters as the hull reinforcement packages for the shield generator.
Point Defense is a utility module that disables limpets or ordnance weapons that are either targeting your ship or near the vicinity of your ship by firing small pellets in quick successions dispatching the target.
Chaff Launcher is a utility module that scatters the targeting systems of gimballed and turreted weapons. Chaff launchers spray a layer of flares to disrupt the aiming reticles. Fixed weapons are the only weapons that are not affected by this temporary effect.
The Electronic Countermeasure (the ECM unit) is a defensive mechanism that disables tracking assists on seeker missiles, torpedoes and even hatch breaker limpets. By holding down, the unit will extend the range of its effectiveness to up to 3 km disabling any seekers within its range. The ECM will enter a cooldown phase of 10 seconds and may completely drain the SYS capacitor.
It is more optimal to run more Shield Boosters than Point Defense, Chaff Launcher, and Electronic Countermeasures.
Preparation before combat is strongly recommended as there are small steps to take before engaging your targets. Setting proper power priorities, fire groups and maintaining optimal hull strength before engagement is necessary to prevent power loss, miss-timed weapon synchronizations, and critical damages dealt to your ship's internal modules.
Power priority is a power management tool should you have modules that are overpowering the power plant’s power reserves. This is commonly due to weapons being deployed and taking a portion of power needed to operate all other modules. By assigning them a power priority, they can automatically shutdown to allocate power for combat-relevant modules.
The priorities you have range from 1-5; 1 being the most important, 5 being the least important. It is recommended that combat ships follow this order of power priorities per module. Planning power priorities with Coriolis.io or ED Shipyard is recommended if you are not sure how to properly set these power priorities. If you are importing builds from Inara into Coriolis, power priorities will be incorrectly set.
Convergence of Weapons
Convergence describes conjoining the position of fixed weapons that overlap each other. Convergence is important for fixed weapons with a hit-scan, meaning, if you are subtargetting a module and attempting to disable it, you’ll find it easier to disable it with 3 converging weapons than a single weapon.
Maintenance helps fix the integrity of the ship. In stations, the three main ship services are refuel, repair, restock. However, in advanced maintenance the “Repair Integrity” is the most important maintenance as this factor determines the hardness of the armour and decreases damage vulnerabilities.
There are two combat flight models, hull tanking and shield tanking. In terms of effectiveness, a good combat pilot in a shield tank ship with optimal pip upkeep can last longer than a hull tank, however the potential to screw up shield pip management is more massive than hull tanking.
Shield Tank Flight Model
Shield Tanking is the more optimal flight model used in combat apart from AX combat. The reason being is that CMDRs will constantly PIP manage to reduce the impact of shield damage from enemy fire. When redirecting PIPs into the SYS capacitor, the shield strength value multiplies up to 2.5x its current value. A shield strength of 5000 MJ can stack up to 12,500 MJ when there are all 4 PIPs into the SYS capacitor. Shield tanking works well on both Prismatic Shield Generators and Bi-Weave Shield Generators builds however, each requires their own individual stats:
For general PvE combat, Bi-Weaves is recommended the most for its fast regenerative properties making these builds last longer in all fields of combat. As per Prismatics, these shield generators are most used to clear out conflict zones, and absorb more fire damage. Ships with Bi-Weaves are able to accomplish the same tasks with ships with Prismatics.
Hull Tank Flight Model
Hull tanking is a more inferior flight model in comparison to their shield tanking counterparts. For hull-tanks, you are relying the hull of a ship to be the defensive component that takes most of the damage. Your ship's hull strength value remains as a static value unlike the stacking values of a shield's strength when you redirect PIP's into the SYS capacitor. Being shield-less and relying on hull to absorb this damage, you are more vulnerable to module damage.
A hull tank ship have its resistances too, however the damage dealt on hull is dependent on
Hull Hardness is a value defaulted by the ship you are flying and does not change throughout the process of modifying your ship's internals. Every weapon will have a Piercing Rating, which will determine how much damage it'll deal to your hull.
Hull hardness plays a role in dealing module damage when you subtarget a ship's module. Just like the principles showed above, modules have an integrity pool, which is damaged by a weapon's piercing rating and the hull hardness of the ship. For a hull tank, the general stats of a good hull tank build should have:
High Resistance vs High Strength Model
Resistances are multiplier factors that decrease the effectiveness of a weapon’s damage type. Say for example, a ship’s total hull integrity is at 5000, if the resistances for thermal, kinetic and explosives are 25% resistant each, the theoretical resistance value for each resistance type is 6250.
Generally high strength model builds have a longer survivability rating than a high resistance model. Resistances also have diminishing returns as resistance protection percentages are multiplicative so resistances can only go up to a certain value. Having a model with low strength value with high resistance multipliers has worse protection than a model with high strength value with low resistance multipliers.
There are different locations where one can find pve combat and hone their flight skills.
Resource Extraction Site
Resource extraction sites are points of interest where pirates can spawn. These locations come in three levels of the spawn rate of pirates and system security vessels. Resource Extraction Sites, commonly referred to RES come in Low, Medium, High and Hazardous security.
For beginner combat pilots, stealing kills from system security vessels at a high resource extraction site is very profitable as the sizes and difficulty of pirate ships are extremely good.
Compromised & Normal Navigation Beacons
Navigation beacons are points of interest in human occupied systems. Navigation beacons commonly referred to as Nav Beacons help download system information and signal sources for your particular instance. Nav beacons are also points of interest areas where pirates can be found.
If the Nav Beacon is found to be compromised or corrupted, it is usually filled with high profile pirates with no system security ships present. Ships from a Hazardous RES site can be found commonly in Compromised Nav Beacon sites.
Megaships & Installations
Megaships and installations are points of interest where a fleet of pirate ships attack the installation. Similar to a conflict zone, the attack coordinator will ask you to pick a side, either side with the pirate fleet that kills clean targets and destroy the facility or side with the faction and take out the pirate fleet.
These locations are sensitive to friendly fire, in the case you accidentally hit the installation, you will get a bounty for assault and you will get attacked by the members of the same group you are protecting.
Mission Related Signal Sources
If you accept a combat mission, these signal sources will spawn mission targets. Mission related signal sources generally come in 3 different threat levels, threat 3, 4 and 6.
Threat 3’s will have targets that do not fire upon you once you drop into the instance. Threat 4’s will have pirates that shoot immediately after you drop or have higher difficulty ships to eliminate. Threat 6’s will have targets that are hard to kill, similar to when Spec Ops in a conflict zone all begin attacking you.
Conflict zones will generate points of interests when a system goes into a state of conflict. Conflicts have three intensity levels where the difficulty of the objectives throughout the conflict zone gets harder.
Low Intensity Conflict Zones
Low intensity conflict zones will harbor relatively competent difficulty ships that are modified to have decent hull and shield health. These conflict zones there are no objectives to complete except to win the war.
Medium Intensity Conflict Zone
Medium intensity conflict zones will have a mix of competent to harder difficulty ships that have relatively good hull and shield health. These conflict zones will ask you to kill either Spec Ops Forces or War Zone Correspondents.
Spec Ops Forces are modified ships spawn in wings of 4, labelled as Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta. Spec Ops Forces come in two different variations, either a wing with an alpha FDL with Asp Explorer or Vultures, or a wing with an alpha Python with Vultures only.
War Zone Correspondents are ships similar in difficulty to system security ships that help with the conflict zone. If they linger in the system for long, they will wake out, and if you are unsuccessful in destroying the correspondence, the objective will fail.
High Intensity Conflict Zone
High intensity conflict zones will have the hardest difficulty of ships to kill and a variety of objectives to complete. In these conflict zones, you’ll be asked to win the war, while completing 2-3 objectives where War Zone Correspondents, Spec Ops Forces, Enemy Captain and power play faction Capital Classed Ships may warp into the battle.
Conflict Zone Captains are highly modified ships that can warp into the battlefield. Captain ships can be found as Federal Corvettes if the enemy faction is Federal pledged, Anacondas if the enemy faction is Independent or Alliance pledged, and Imperial Cutters if the enemy faction is imperial pledged.
Capital Class Ships are mega ships that enter conflict zones randomly. There are two capital class ships in Elite Dangerous the Farragut Class Battlecruiser which is controlled by the Federation, and the Majestic Class Interdictor which is controlled by the Empire. Capital Class ships can be rerouted by destroying all heat relays.
If both factions of the same conflict zone are pledged to the same major superpower, no instances of these capital class ships will exist. If either faction of the war is pledged to a major superpower, there exists a possibility of a capital class ship warping in. If a faction is pledged to the Federation and the other to the Empire, both mega ships will warp into battle. If either faction is pledged to Alliance or Independent, they will not spawn these capital class ships.
Pirate Activity Detected Signal Sources
These signal sources can often be found in systems in anarchy security or systems of the state pirate attack. Pirate activity detected signal sources can spawn from threat 3’s to threat 6’s similar to those of mission related signal sources.
However the major difference is that pirate activity can spawn with a threat level 7. This means you’ll encounter a fleet of pirate ships ready to engage with a chance to spawn either a seized Farragut Class Battlecruiser or Majestic Class Interdictor if the pirate faction is pledged to a super power. Winning a pirate activity signal source with threat level 7 is like winning a high intensity conflict zone, without the help of system security ships.